How to Do a Romanian Deadlift

The Romanian deadlift, or RDL for short, is a barbell or free weight exercise that targets the glutes, hamstrings, and core. Done right, it's a great move to add to your lower-body strength training routine as it affects just about everything in the back of your body (the back chain). But because it's a complex movement that involves multiple joints and muscle groups, it's easy to do the exercise incorrectly, increasing the likelihood that you will end up injuring yourself.

In general, if you are new to the movement, it is a good idea to work with a coach or trainer to ensure that you are executing the RDL in good shape.


The first benefit of the Romanian deadlift is how many muscle groups you target at once. This type of compound exercise is considered a functional movement that translates to other areas of life because when you move in everyday life, you are not using a single muscle, you are using a combination of muscle groups to walk, run, squat. , get up and so on.

The RDL specifically engages the hamstrings, glutes, core, and even the upper back, shoulders, and forearms. By developing strength in these areas, activities of daily living, such as walking and picking up objects from the ground, become easier to perform.

Also, unlike other common lower-body compound exercises like the squat and lunge, the RDL primarily focuses on the hamstrings rather than the quadriceps. For people who do a lot of squats and lunges, the Romanian deadlift can help "balance" any imbalance that may begin to develop between the strength in the front and back of your body.

Finally, as you develop greater strength and power in your hamstrings and glutes, you will find that these strength gains translate to other exercises as well. You will be able to lift more and more comfortably during your traditional strength training routine.

Step-by-Step Instructions

All you need to get started is a barbell and weight plates.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Hold a barbell with both hands, directly in front of your thighs, with your hands shoulder-width apart (slightly wider than your thighs).
  2. Start with a slight bend in the knees. Roll your shoulders back, pulling your shoulder blades toward your spine to engage your upper back. Your shoulders should stay pulled back like this throughout the exercise.
  3. Inhale and press your hips back. Keep pushing them back (like your hips are bending) as your torso naturally begins to lean toward the floor. It is important to realize that you are not leaning your waist forward. Trunk movement only occurs as a result of the hip joint, not because you are actively leaning forward. Make sure you have perfect posture and that your shoulders and back are not bowed forward.
  4. Keep the bar close to your thighs (almost brushing the front of them) as you lean forward from the hips. If there are several inches between your body and the bar, roll your shoulders back and bring the bar closer to your body. Your arms should drop naturally (elbows extended), but must remain hooked to keep the bar close to you.
  5. Stop bending your hips when you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. The bar does not have to reach the ground; in fact, it is perfectly normal if you stop moving when the bar reaches approximately knee height, depending on your personal flexibility.
  6. Exhale and use your hamstrings and glutes to "pull" your torso back into an upright position while actively pressing your hips forward. You should not use your back or torso to get back on your feet.
  7. Complete your set and carefully put the bar back in the holder.

Common Mistakes

The important thing to remember when performing the Romanian deadlift is that the movement starts with the hips. As you press your hips back, your knees should not begin to bend simultaneously; this is not a squat. In fact, your knees should remain relatively static throughout the exercise.

Also remember to keep your shoulders back and your center busy so your torso maintains a perfect posture while your hips bend.

Rounding your shoulders

When performing the Romanian deadlift, you must maintain a perfect torso posture throughout the exercise. It is very common for people to forget that the upper body must remain involved. But if your shoulders lean forward, your upper back will collapse to the floor and your torso will begin to take the shape of a small "n".

This is often the reason for the following common mistake: the bar "floats" too far from your thighs. All of these together shift the weight too far forward, putting more stress on the back and reducing the focus on the hamstrings. Roll your shoulders back, pull your shoulder blades toward your spine, and activate your core before starting the hip hinge. Keep them engaged throughout the exercise, "locked in" right when it started.

Sweep too far from your thighs

When people perform the RDL, it is common for their hips to bend back, allowing the bar to simply "hang" over their shoulders so that their arms are perpendicular to the floor. This places the weight too far from the body, pulling on the shoulders and upper back, taking the emphasis off the hamstrings and repositioning them on the upper body.

With your shoulder blades pulled toward your spine, the bar should remain approximately one inch from your thighs throughout the movement. Think of the bar as "scraping" the front of your thighs while doing the hip hinge. At the lowest point of the RDL, your arms should not be perpendicular to the floor, but at an angle back toward your shins. Doing the exercise in front of a mirror can help you identify this mistake.

Waist flexion

People unfamiliar with the "hip hinge" may have a hard time differentiating between pressing your hips back, basically pushing your hips back so your butt continues to press behind you while keeping your torso completely straight, and leaning over. forward at the waist. .

If you perform the exercise in front of a mirror so that you can see your body from the side, you should see a clear, sharp angle beginning to form between your torso and upper thighs, with the tailbone as the axis of the angle. . If you lean forward from the waist, you won't see the same sharp angle shape; you are more likely to see a 90 degree angle at your waist, or even a curve that forms in your lower back when you begin to lean forward. This prepares you for a lumbar strain.

Do the exercise in front of the mirror and make sure your core remains engaged, your shoulders back, your spine neutral, with the movement coming from your hips.

Bending your knees too much

People often make the mistake of turning the Romanian deadlift into another squat movement. After starting with a small hip hinge, they immediately bend their knees and begin squatting. In fact, your knees should not be bent too much during the entire exercise. The slight curve that you create at the beginning of the exercise is about the same that you should maintain when you complete the exercise.

Observe yourself in the side mirror: all movements should be done with the hip hinge, not bending the knees. If you notice your knees buckle and your glutes drop to the floor like they would in a squat, restart and try again. Keep pushing your hips back more and more to bend your hips instead of bending your knees.

Stretching the neck forward

You want your spine to stay neutral and aligned throughout the RDL. Even people who have managed to keep the spine aligned from the tailbone to the upper back can make the mistake of looking up and forward while moving in the deadlift.

You want your neck to stay aligned with your spine so that your torso and head form a straight line from your tailbone to the top of your head throughout the exercise. As such, your eyes should look at the ground at the bottom of the movement, rather than looking straight ahead.

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Source: ScottHermanFitness

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